Is it time for Kyle Eckel to come clean?
Yesterday at Super Bowl Media Day, CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel caught up with the New Orleans Saints fullback and former Naval Academy star. Doyel asked Eckel the obvious question: Why aren’t you still in the Navy?
Eckel, of course, was kicked out of the Navy in 2006 after less than two years on active duty. The Navy wouldn’t tell us why back then, and Doyel had no luck getting info from them either. When previously interviewed, Eckel himself has never offered any real insight into the issue.
Here’s what Eckel had to say to Doyel yesterday:
Again, I asked. It happened Tuesday when I got him alone at Super Bowl Media Day.
“No,” Eckel said — politely — when I asked him to tell me about his exit from the Navy. “No?” I said back to Eckel. “That’s it? ‘No’?”
“Right,” he told me — polite as can be. “No.”
The closest a reporter has come to getting to the bottom of Eckel’s record might be the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler in his 2007 piece “Troubled Waters.” In it, Hohler outlines the trouble Eckel came across during his days at the Academy and after he graduated.
Judging by the comments on this blog and Doyel’s column, certain active-duty and former service members clearly loathe Eckel. Some folks don’t think this blog should even mention his NFL accomplishments, and a lot of folks aren’t happy to see him having a good time as a radio intern and playing in another Super Bowl.
It’s not hard to understand where this animosity comes from. Eckel got kicked out of the Navy for reasons unknown, and he managed to parlay that into a far more lucrative and safer life. In his first full season he went to the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. So far he’s managed to get jobs with three successful franchises — New England, Philadelphia and New Orleans — and plenty of nice paychecks. Now he’s managed to do what many star NFL players never do: Take the field for his second Super Bowl.
A lot of service members have to wonder: Where’s the justice in this? Two years ago, the Defense Department ruled that West Point graduate Caleb Campbell could not play for the Detroit Lions after he was drafted in the seventh round. Yet, Eckel gets to play in the Super Bowl because he got booted out of the Navy.
Eckel apparently did something serious enough to get kicked out of the Navy, yet by doing so the Navy put him in perfect position to follow his desire to play in the NFL. The only obvious punishment for Eckel was that he had to pay back his tuition — a significant sanction for sure, but not the end of the world for a guy who’s stuck around in the NFL for four seasons where the league minimum salary for a fourth year player is $510,000.
So let us know: Do you think Eckel should reveal why he’s no longer in the Navy? Or is it between him and the Navy, and none of our business?